When Jonathan S. Brito ’10 approaches you in his DHAs, the first word that comes to mind is “jock.” With a solid frame and confident walk, Brito looks more likely to spend his day carbo-loading for a track and field meet than working through abstract math problem sets in the library. Ask him to explain “A Universal Degree Bound for Rings of Invariants of n Point Configurations Modulo Torus Actions,” and that stereotype quickly disappears. But his understanding of the theorem shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that he proved it this past summer with two professors in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Michigan.
Brito claims he is simply “alright at math,” having started with Mathematics 1b during freshman year. “I went to a public high school where the highest math is [AP Calculus AB],” said Brito. “But the stuff that I do, I can’t imagine doing in high school. With abstract math, a lot seems applicable at first and then at some point the numbers go away—I haven’t seen one on a pset since sophomore year.”
Brito recalls having stumbled upon REU by virtue of his own laziness, after the deadlines for finance and consulting internships had passed. He worked in an apartment, not an office, and he reported to his two supervising professors twice a week. “It’s a lot of trial and error,” said Brito. “It was frustrating and stressful, and some days you just don’t feel like doing the work. But it feels cool to have your name on a theorem.”
When he’s not powering through p-sets, Brito is putting 25 hours a week into his long jump. The star athlete at Malden High School walked on to Harvard’s track and field team freshman year. An impressive list of injuries has accumulated over his college career, including pulled hamstrings, a flipped disk in his lower back, and tendonitis in both knees, but he refuses to stop competing, and he still feels that the sport has contributed to his personal growth.
“I learned that you can’t blame others for your own injuries,” said Brito. “I also started with these crazy ambitious personal bests; now I appreciate all the work that goes into achieving them.”
And although self-motivation and independence seem to be Brito’s defining qualities, his easy affability means he’s no cloistered math nerd or out-of-touch jock.
“He’s a very introspective person,” said Justin R. Gerrard ’10, Brito’s blockmate. “He analyzes things logically but, at the same time, balances his quantitative side with being a really nice guy and friend who’s always there when you need him.”